Pictured: Irman Smajic (upper), Anna Astvik (lower left), Murtaza Talha Ali (lower right) By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran Having passed the midway point of 2018, the chase to be IMMAF’s pound-for-pound top athlete has opened up, following the conclusion of last month’s European Championships. For the past twelve months, IMMAF Heavyweight champion and Sweden’s most decorated amateur standout, Irman Smajic, has reigned as the pound-for-pound number-one since earning gold at the 2017 Asian Open Championships in Singapore. However, Smajic’s absence from the 2018 Euros has allowed the chasing contenders to close in on his lead. The top three positions of the pound-for-pound rankings are currently occupied by reigning IMMAF world champions, with Sweden’s Anna Astvik and Bahrain’s Murtaza Talha Ali, leaders of their respective divisions, having closed in on Smajic due to their gold medal triumphs at the European Open in Bucharest, Romania. 27-year-old Astvik holds the number-two position behind her national team mate, having now won a second IMMAF grand slam in the Women’s Senior Strawweight division, adding to her IMMAF world title achieved last November in Bahrain. Likewise, Men’s Light-Heavyweight world champion, Murtaza Talha Ali, dominated his way to the 2017 world title on home soil. In Bucharest, the 21-year-old showed perseverance, edging a split-decision over Sweden’s Robin Larsson in the quarter-finals before besting Ireland’s Cathal Manning with a Unanimous Decision nod in the semis. The reigning 205lb king saved his best for last to shut out Sweden’s defending European champion, Anton Turkalj, to take home the gold medal. With future results pending, the trailing pair are within touching distance of the pound-for-pound pinnacle. The soonest opportunity to take over comes at the 2018 Asian Open championships, taking place in Beijing, China, from 2-8 September. At each Continental Championships, an excess of 500 ranking points can be earned by each eventual gold medalist, with even higher totals on offer at the World Championships. 35-year-old Smajic, however, has vowed to continue his record setting amateur tenure in 2018 when he returns to action. The heavyweight great is currently 14-3 on the IMMAF platform, and undefeated since 2016, enjoying a win streak that has seen claim a second world title in 2017 alongside European and Asian Open titles in the same year. The race to be IMMAF’s top athlete does not end there. Hot on the heels of the leading trio are the likes of Bahrain’s Abdulmanap Magomedov (formerly of Russia) in fourth place, plus Australia’s Joseph Luciano with an outside chance of finishing 2018 on top. Current no.5, Serdar Altas, brought a close to his amateur career and turned pro following his gold medal triumph at the 2017 World Championships, but will retain his ranking points until the 12-month lifespan ends and his total begins to decrease.